07/09/2004 8:08 PM ET
2004 Futures Game bios
U.S. Team Roster
Joe Blanton (Athletics) Pitcher
Blanton was the second of four first-round picks by the A's in
the 2002 draft, going 24th overall out of the University of
Kentucky. The righthander gets his fastball into the mid-90s
and has impeccable control. In 2003, Blanton dominated two levels in his first full season,
posting a 2.29 ERA and ranking second in the National
Association with 174 strikeouts. The 6-3, 225-pounder tossed 25
consecutive scoreless innings at one point, capped by a
complete-game, 11-strikeout shutout. The 23-year-old Blanton began this season at Class AAA and went
2-1 with a 2.08 ERA through his first month.
Bryan Bullington (Pirates) Pitcher
The first overall pick of the 2002 draft went 13-5 with a 2.52
ERA between two Class A levels in his debut season last year. He
went 5-1 with a 1.39 ERA in eight outings in the lower-level
Class A South Atlantic League before earning a promotion to the
Carolina League in May. In Class AA to begin 2004, Bullington went 6-3 with a 3.86 ERA
through the first three months of the season. He won three
straight starts May 16-27. The 6-5, 220-pound righthander out of Ball State University,
Bullington throws a low-90s fastball with deception from a three
quarters arm slot. He also has a good curveball and a developing
Matt Cain (Giants) Pitcher
The Giants' first-round pick in the 2002 draft, Cain gets his
fastball into the mid-90s with good location. He complements the
heater with a changeup and a power curveball. In his first full professional season last year, Cain
posted a 2.55 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 74 lower-level Class A South
Atlantic League innings before going down with a stress fracture
in his elbow. Healthy to start 2004, the 19-year-old went 7-1 with a 1.86 ERA
in 13 advanced Class A California League starts to earn a
promotion to Class AA in June. In his Eastern League debut on
June 18, he allowed three hits and an unearned run over seven
innings to earn the win.
John Danks (Rangers) Pitcher
Danks was the ninth overall pick in the 2003 draft after going
10-3 with a 1.61 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 100 innings in his
senior year of high school. The lefthander has a low to mid-90s
fastball and a devastating curveball. In his first 13 professional innings last summer, Danks allowed
just one earned run and six hits, striking out 22 rookie-level
Arizona League batters. He earned a promotion to the
short-season Class A Northwest League in mid-August.
The 19-year-old began this season in the lower-level Class A
Midwest League and went 3-2 with a 2.17 ERA and 64 strikeouts in
49 2/3 innings before being promoted to the advanced Class A
California League in mid-June.
Clint Everts (Expos) Pitcher
Everts was the fifth overall pick in the 2002 draft, going 10
picks before his Cypress Falls High School (Houston, TX), Scott
Kazmir. The 6-2 righthander has above average curveball and
changeup offerings to go with a low-90s fastball. In his second professional start last year, Everts
struck out eight batters over six scoreless innings to post his first win.
He went 2-7 with a 3.94 ERA over two Class A stops overall.
The 19-year-old Everts has spent this season in the lower-level
Class A South Atlantic League. He went 3-0 with a 0.62 ERA in
June, featuring his first professional shutout on June 20 and a
career-high 12 strikeouts six days later.
Gavin Floyd (Phillies) Pitcher
Floyd, who was the fourth player taken in the 2001 draft, is a
6-5 righthander with a low to mid-90s fastball and a nasty
curveball. In his first professional season, 2002, Floyd emerged as a
SportsTicker All-Teen Team member, going 11-10 with a 2.77 ERA
in 27 South Atlantic League starts. He pitched a nine-inning
no-hitter but lost on July 24, 2002. Last year, Floyd went 7-8
despite ranking ninth in the Florida State League with a 3.00
ERA. The 21-year-old Floyd kicked off his first season in Class AA by
not allowing a run through his first four starts - a span of 17
innings this April. He worked eight hitless innings in a
no-decision on May 19.
Bill Murphy (Marlins) Pitcher
A third-round pick of the Athletics in 2002, Murphy was traded
to the Marlins along with righthander Mike Neu for lefty Mark
Redman last December. The 6-0, 190-pound Murphy has a low-90s
fastball with great movement and deceives hitters with his
delivery. In his first full professional season last year, Murphy went
10-7 with a 2.94 ERA in time split between lower-level Class A
and Class AA. He threw a nine-inning no-hitter on June 10 and
finished fifth in the A's system with 121 strikeouts.
Pitching for the Class AA Carolina Mudcats in his first season
with the Marlins, the 23-year-old lefthander won five straight
decisions April 21-May 22 and struck out a career-high 11
batters on June 12.
Kyle Sleeth (Tigers) Pitcher
Sleeth was the third player taken in last year's draft after
tying an NCAA record with 26 consecutive winning decisions at
Wake Forest. The 6-5 righthander, who finished his collegiate
career at 31-6, has a moving fastball that can reach the mid-90s
and advanced poise on the mound. Making his professional debut in 2004, the 22-year-old Sleeth
went 5-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 11 advanced Class A starts to earn a
promotion to Class AA in mid-June.
Tim Stauffer (Padres) Pitcher
Taken a pick after Sleeth in last year's draft, Stauffer was a
standout at Richmond. The two-time All-American gets great
movement on his low-90s fastball and supplements it with above
average breaking pitches. The 22-year-old Stauffer made his professional debut in the
advanced Class A California League this spring and went 2-0 with
a 1.78 ERA in six starts to earn a promotion to Class AA in
early May. After going 3-2 with a 2.63 ERA in eight Southern
League starts, he was promoted to Class AAA in late June.
Brad Thompson (Cardinals) Pitcher
A 16th-round pick in the 2002 draft, Thompson has made only five
professional starts before beginning the 2004 season in the
Class AA Tennessee Smokies rotation. The 22-year-old righthander
proceeded to set a Southern League record by stringing together
49 scoreless innings to begin the season. Dating back to last August, he pitched 57 2/3 consecutive
scoreless frames. He won seven straight starts, including
back-to-back, seven-inning shutouts to begin May, and was 7-1
with a 1.76 ERA when promoted to Class AAA in June.
The 6-1, 190-pound righthander has a sinking fastball clocked in
the low-90s and an baffling slider.
Koyie Hill (Dodgers) Catcher
A fourth-round pick in the 2000 draft out of Wichita State
University, Hill entered 2004 with a .284 career average through
four minor league seasons. He hit a career-high .314 as a Class
AAA Pacific Coast League all-star last year before making his
major league debut in September. Hill emerged as a South Atlantic League all-star in 2001,
ranking seventh in the circuit with a .301 average and knocking
in 79 runs. The 25-year-old is in his second Class AAA season in 2004. He
hit .374 with six homers and 29 RBI during May and began June by
going 4-for-6 with two doubles and two RBI.
Jeff Mathis (Angels) Catcher
Taken by the Angels between Casey Kotchman and Dallas McPherson
in the 2001 draft, Mathis has lived up to expectations as a
supplemental first-round pick. After averaging 40 doubles the last two seasons, the 21-year-old
Mathis has displayed more over-the-fence power this year and is
on pace to set a career high in that category this season.
A former shortstop and pitcher in high school, Mathis is very
athletic with a strong arm. Though relatively new to catching,
he has shown an ability to take charge behind the plate while
continuing to gain the confidence of his pitching staff.
Aaron Hill (Blue Jays) Shortstop
Hill, the 13th overall selection in the 2003 draft, was hitting .263 with five home runs and 43 RBI
in his first 86 games at Class AA New Hampshire this season. The Louisiana State product and 2003 SEC
Player of the Year excelled in the New York-Penn League in 2003, batting .361 with four home runs and
34 RBI in 33 games before being promoted to Dunedin. The gap hitter batted .286 with 11 RBI in 32
games for the Florida State League entry. The 22-year-old is noted for a well-rounded game, which
includes extra-base power, on-base capability and a solid glove.
Michael Aubrey (Indians) First Base
Aubrey, who was the 11th overall pick in last year's draft,
began this season in the advanced Class A Carolina League and
was leading the circuit with 60 RBI and a .339 average at the
time of his promotion to Class AA in June. The 22-year-old, lefthanded-hitting Aubrey began his
professional career by batting .348 in a 38-game stint in the
South Atlantic League last year. In 356 Class A at-bats, he
struck out just 48 times. A pitcher in addition to playing first base his freshman year at
Tulane, Aubrey has a strong throwing arm in addition to overall
above-average defensive abilities.
Prince Fielder (Brewers) First Base
The second-youngest player to begin the season in the Southern
League this season, the 20-year-old Fielder was off to a .320
start through his first 33 Class AA games. The 6-0, 260-pound Fielder was promoted over advanced
Class A this season after being the Midwest League's MVP and the
Brewers' Minor League Player of the Year in 2003. He led the
National Association with 12 homers and 34 RBI last July and
challenged for a league triple crown with 27 homers, 112 RBI
and a .313 average overall. The son of former major league slugger Cecil Fielder has
improved defensively since being taken seventh overall in the
2002 draft. In addition to producing well above-average power
numbers, he has an uncanny understanding of the strike zone.
Dallas McPherson (Angels) Third Base
The 6-4, 230-pound McPherson was recently promoted to Class AAA
after batting .319 with 25 homer runs in 364 Class AA at-bats -
a ratio of one every 14.56 at-bats - dating back to last year.
He went 3-for-3 with a homer in his first AAA game and posted
back-to-back two-homer games less than a week later. McPherson, who was a second-round pick in the
2001 draft out of the Citadel, homered in five straight games in the advanced
California League July 14-18, 2003 and was hitting .308 with 18
homers and 59 RBI when promoted to Class AA less than two weeks
later. He had three homers and eight RBI in his 11th Class AA
game on August 11. McPherson is among the minor league leaders in RBI and slugging
percentage this season. Between the AA and AAA levels, McPherson
ranked second in the National Association in both homers (14)
and RBI (38) this past June.
B.J. Upton (Devil Rays) Shortstop
At the tender age of 19, Upton has emerged as the top prospect in the minor leagues and has already
earned consideration for a call-up to the majors. Upton, who was a SportsTicker All-Teen Team member
in his debut season last year, needed just 593 professional at-bats to reach Class AAA. Since that
promotion in May, he has hit eight home runs - matching his total from last year. The second overall
pick in the 2002 draft, Upton has superlative tools across the board. He can drive the ball with
authority to all fields and has the speed to turn doubles into triples and steal bases.
Rickie Weeks (Brewers) Second Base
The second overall pick in last year's draft, Weeks has
superior offensive tools and the athleticism to evolve into a
quality defender as well. A career .473 hitter in college who led the nation in batting
twice, Weeks hit .358 in 67 minor-league at-bats last year
before making his major-league debut just five weeks after
signing. He went on to impress in the Arizona Fall League with a
.440 on-base percentage and nine steals. Though he has struggled at Class AA thus far this season,
Weeks has too much talent not to succeed. He has excellent bat speed,
power potential to all fields and great speed on the bases.
David Wright (Mets) Third Base
A supplemental first-round pick in the 2001 draft, Wright is one
of the best all-around third basemen in the minor leagues. He
combines power, speed and patience at the plate offensively and
has good hands, quick feet and an accurate throwing arm with a
quick release on defense. Wright tied for the Mets organizational lead with 93 RBI while
playing in the lower-level Class A South Atlantic League in
2002. Last year, he hit .275 with 15 homers and 75 RBI as an
advanced Class A Florida State League All Star. He went on to
lead the St. Lucie Mets to a league title by hitting .391 in the
playoffs. The 21-year-old Wright began this season in the Class AA Eastern
League and was leading the circuit with a .363 average when
promoted to the Class AAA International League in mid-June.
Between the two levels, Wright ranked fourth in the National
Association with a .410 average in June.
Jason Kubel (Twins) Outfield
Kubel, who turned 22 on May 25, began this season in the Class
AA Eastern League but was promoted to Class AAA after hitting a
league-best .377 with six homers and 29 RBI through May 20. The
5-11, 190-pounder hit safely in his first 10 International
League games to close out May riding a 13-game hitting streak
overall. A 12th-round pick in the 2000 draft, Kubel was a .310 career
hitter entering 2004. He was an advanced Class A Florida State
League All Star last year when he batted .298 with a career-high
82 RBI - good for second in the league. A native of California, Kubel displays excellent plate
discipline and has good power potential. He has a strong arm in
Conor Jackson (Diamondbacks) Outfield
The Diamondbacks' first-round pick in last year's draft, Jackson
was the short-season Class A Northwest League's MVP in 2003. He
hit .319 with six homers and 60 RBI and established a new league
record with 35 doubles. The 22-year-old product of the University of California hit
.345 with 11 homers and 54 RBI to in the advanced Class A
California League to earn a promotion to Class AA in June. He
carried a 19-game hitting streak into the Texas League and went
2-for-4 with a homer in his first Class AA game to extend it to
Val Majewski (Orioles) Outfield
Majewski, a third-round pick in 2002, entered this season with a
career .294 batting average and a .517 slugging percentage. With
a good eye at the plate, he had struck out only nine more times
(61) than he had walked (51). The product of Rutgers University has spent this season in the
Class AA Eastern League. He homered twice and drove in four runs
in his first game and had a 5-for-6 performance eight days
later. Majewski, who turned 23 on June 19, consistently hits line
drives from the left side of the plate and had already matched
his career high of 12 home runs by July 2. He has decent speed
for a man 6-2 and 200 pounds.
Jeremy Reed (Mariners) Outfield
The key prospect in the deal that sent Freddy Garcia to the
White Sox in a trade last month, Reed is considered one of the
best all-around outfielders in the minor leagues. Reed, who was the White Sox' second-round pick in
the 2002 draft out of Long Beach State, led the National Association with a
.373 average between two levels last year. After batting .333 in
the advanced Class A Carolina League, he hit .409 in 66 Class AA
Southern League games. He was a SportsTicker All Prospect Team
member and the Topps Minor League Player of the Year. The 23-year-old Reed was hitting .275 with
eight homers, 37 RBI and 12 steals in the Class AAA International League at the time
of the trade. He had two hits, including a home run, in his
first game in the Mariners system on July 1.
Delmon Young (Devil Rays) Outfield
Young was the first overall pick in the 2003 draft out of
Camarillo High School in California. Though he played in the
Arizona Fall League, his official professional debut wasn't
until this season. The 18-year-old homered in his first game with Charleston-SC of
the lower-level Class A South Atlantic League on April 8. He put
together a 13-game hitting streak April 27-May 10, went 5-for-5
on May 28 and hit three home runs in a doubleheader on June 24.
Young is 6-3 and 205 pounds with excellent power potential and
decent plate discipline for his age.
World Team Roster
Jeff Francis (Rockies) Pitcher
Francis, the ninth overall pick in 2002, has gone 22-3 since
June of 2003. He started the '03 campaign 2-7 with a 6.88 ERA
through May before going 10-2, 1.83 ERA the rest of the way.
The 23-year-old won his first 10 decisions at Class AA Tulsa in
the Texas League this season. He leads the league in wins, ERA
and strikeouts (133). The 6-5, 210 pounder, who has command of
all his pitches, has fanned 10 or more hitters seven times,
including a career-high 14 June 1 against Frisco. He tossed a
no-hitter July 6, 2003 for Visalia against Modesto in the Class
A California League.
Francis, who was the second-highest Canadian chosen in draft
history, is almost a lock to represent his native country in the
Olympics this summer. Righthanded pitcher Adam Loewen, selected
fourth overall by the Orioles in that same draft, is the highest
Canadian ever drafted.
Merkin Valdez (Giants) Pitcher
The 22-year-old Valdez, who emerged as a top prospect in 2003,
started this season on the disabled list with an Achilles
problem and was not activated until June. Pitching in the Class A California League for San Jose,
Valdez turned in his best performance this season July 3 with 12
strikeouts and one run allowed over a season-high seven innings.
In his first full pro season last year, Valdez went 9-5 with a
2.25 ERA and a Class A South Atlantic League-best 166
strikeouts. He recorded three double-digit strikeout totals,
including a career-high 13 over seven innings July 28.
The 6-3, 170-pounder was rewarded by being selected Giants Minor
League Pitcher of the Year and being promoted to the 40-man
roster. Originally signed by the Braves, Valdez was dealt to the
Giants with Damian Moss for Russ Ortiz.
Dioner Navarro (Yankees) Catcher
At age 20, Navarro was the youngest player to begin 2004 in the
Class AA Eastern League after hitting .341 with 37 RBI in a
58-game audition there last year. Navarro was promoted to Class AAA in late June after batting
.271 with three homers and 29 RBI in 255 at-bats for Trenton.
He's drawn comparisons to Pudge Rodriguez because of his 5-9
size, discipline at the plate and his great quickness and a
strong arm behind it.
Robinson Cano (Yankees) Second Base
Cano, just 21 year of age, hit .301 with 20 doubles, eight
triples, seven homers and 44 RBI at Class AA Trenton before a
late June callup to Class AAA Columbus, where he went 4-for-4
with three RBI in his first game and homered the next.
The second baseman earned Class A South Atlantic League All-Star
honors in 2002, hitting .276 with 14 homers.
Cano, the son of former major leaguer Jose Cano, hit a combined
.277 between the Class A Florida State League and the Class AA
Eastern League last season, driving in 63 runs and producing 35
extra-base hits. The slugger already has 38 this season.
Shin-soo Choo (Mariners) Outfield
Choo, who will turn 22 on July 13, is having a fine season
playing in a tough hitters park in Class AA San Antonio. He's
hitting well over .300 when on the road. The lefthanded hitter
is also one home run shy of his career-high total of nine set
last season at Class A Inland Empire. Choo, who earned SportsTicker All-Teen Team honors in 2002
after batting .303 with 37 steals for two Class A clubs, is a quality
defender with a powerful arm.
Felix Pie (Cubs) Outfield
Pie, the youngest player in the Class A Florida State League, is
having another outstanding season. He's had two 5-hit games this
season, including hitting for the cycle with four runs and five
RBI for Daytona against Fort Myers in late June. He's already
set career highs in stolen bases and home runs. The 19-year-old native of the Dominican Republic was
co-MVP of the rookie-level Arizona League in 2002 (.321, 13 3B, 17 SB in
55 games) and a SportsTicker All-Teen selection in '03, batting
.285 with nine triples and 17 steals at Class A Lansing in the
Felix Hernandez (Mariners) Pitcher
The 18-year-old Hernandez, a native of the Dominican Republic,
is the youngest player selected to participate in the Futures
Game. Hernandez was outstanding in the hitter-friendly Class A
California League this season before being promoted to Class AA
in July. The 6-3, 180 pounder was 9-3 with a 2.74 ERA and 114
strikeouts and just 26 walks in 92 innings. He fanned 21 in his
last two starts before allowing a run with eight strikeouts over
six innings in his Texas League debut. Hernandez caught scouts' eyes in '03 when, as a 17-year-old,
he went 7-2 with a 2.29 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 55 innings at
Everett of the short-season Class A Northwest League.
Yusmeiro Petit (Mets) Pitcher
This 19-year-old native of Venezuela left a lasting impression
on Class A South Atlantic League hitters when he struck out 45
batters in his last four starts (23 2/3 innings) before being
summoned to the high Class A Florida State League. Petit was 9-2 with a 2.39 ERA and 122 strikeouts
in 83 innings for Capital City. He walked only 22 and held opposing hitters to
a .162 average. The 6-0, 180 pounder pitched four hitless
innings with nine strikeouts in his FSL debut on July 3.
Petit was 4-3 with a 2.28 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 74 innings
in short-season ball in 2003.
Joel Guzman (Dodgers) Shortstop
Guzman rebounded nicely from a slow April by batting .348 with
16 doubles, eight triples, eight homers and 33 RBI the next two
months for Class A Vero Beach in the Florida State League.
The 6-4, 200 pounder hit .240 with 26 doubles, 13 homers and 54
RBI last season split between Class A South Georgia and Vero
Ruben Gotay (Royals) Second Base
This 21-year-old second base prospect has a live bat with
extra-base potential. The switch-hitter is on pace this season
for 90 RBI, 30 doubles, 12 triples, 14 homers and 15 stolen
bases. Gotay emerged as a prospect in 2002 when he hit .285 with a with
a Class A Midwest League-high 42 doubles, 60 extra-base hits,
nine homers and 83 RBI at Class A Burlington. Last season, while playing at pitcher-friendly
Wilmington in the high Class A Carolina League, Gotay hit .261 with 31 doubles and
Andy Marte (Braves) Third Base
The 20-year-old Marte, a SportsTicker All-Prospect member last
season and a two-time All-Teen Team member, has been on the
disabled list since June 5. Marte has 18 doubles and 11 homers in 201 at-bats at Class AA
Greenville. He follows in a long line of Atlanta top prospects that includes
Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Rafael Furcal that excelled as
teenagers. After leading the lower level Class A South Atlantic
League with 105 RBI in 2002, Marte topped the advanced Class A
Carolina League in doubles (35) and extra-base hits (52) in
Justin Morneau (Twins) First Base
Morneau, who entered this season with a .311 career average, has
added power in the last few years. He's had three 2-homer games
this season and has driven in seven and six runs in a game.
Morneau, a native of Canada, slugged 24 homers last season
between Class AA, AAA and the major leagues.
The 6-4, 220-pounder led the rookie-level Gulf Coast League with
a .402 average, 10 homers and 58 RBI in 52 games in 2000 and hit
.356 in a half season in the Class A Midwest League the
Fausto Carmona (Indians) Pitcher
In his first full professional season in 2003, Carmona went 17-4
with a 2.16 ERA, claiming Indians Pitcher of the Year honors.
He was the Class A South Atlantic League's Most Outstanding
Pitcher, leading the circuit in wins and ERA (2.06).
The 20-year-old went 5-2 with a 2.83 ERA in 12 starts at high
Class A Kinston this season before being promoted to Class AA
Akron. He allowed a total of two runs in his first two
Jose Capellan (Braves) Pitcher
The 23-year-old Capellan impressed Atlanta's management during
spring training with a fastball that flirts with triple digits.
The 6-3, 170-pound righthander began the season with the Myrtle
Beach Pelicans in the advanced Class A Carolina League and
produced a 1.94 ERA over 46 innings. Capellan won each of his final four starts before getting called
up to the Class AA Southern League in late May. He was leading
the Carolina League with 62 strikeouts, including 37 over his
final four outings, at the time of his promotion. In Class AA,
he struck out a combined 27 hitters over his first three starts.
The Dominican Republic native suffered a serious elbow injury
during rookie ball in 2001 and missed the entire 2002 season
after undergoing "Tommy John" surgery. He was handled cautiously
during a comeback stint with Rome of the Class A South Atlantic
League in 2003, posting a 3.80 ERA in 47 innings.
Jairo Garcia (Athletics) Pitcher
Garcia, who signed with Oakland as a 17-year-old out of the
Dominican Republic in 2000, has earned a reputation for throwing
high 90s heat. Used primarily as a starter prior to this season,
the now 21-year-old entered the 2004 season with 216 strikeouts
in 208 career innings.
Starting his second straight season with the Class A Kane County
Cougars of the Midwest League, the 6-0, 165-pound righty has
found great success in a closer role. Garcia did not allow a run
over his first nine appearances, earning five saves over that
He posted a 0.30 ERA in 30 innings and was second in the circuit
with 16 saves before his promotion to the Class AA Midland
Wilfredo Ledezma (Tigers) Pitcher
Selected by Detroit from the Boston Red Sox in the 2002 major
league Rule 5 draft, Ledezma spent the entire 2003 season on the
Tigers 25-man roster despite having never pitched above
lower-level Class A ball. The then 22-year-old utilized a
fastball that reached the mid-90s and a hard curveball but went
3-7 with a 5.79 ERA in 84 innings in the majors.
Now 23, the native of Venezuela started this season in the Class
AA Eastern League and earned a win in six of his first nine
starts, including four consecutive wins May 8-25.
Ledezma struck out a season-high 10 batters in eight scoreless
innings against Norwich May 30 and tossed eight scoreless
innings in his next start to finished tied for the Eastern
League lead with four wins in May. The 6-3 lefty also spun a
two-hit shutout - the first of his career - against the Altoona
Curve June 26.
Arnuldo Munoz (White Sox) Pitcher
The 22-year-old Munoz possesses a quality curveball and utilizes
quick arm action to throw a fastball that touches 90. The 5-9
southpaw entered this season with an 18-11 record and 312
strikeouts in 257 career innings. Munoz earned Pitcher of the
Year honors in the Dominican Winter League in 2002.
Despite spending a majority of his career in the bullpen, Munoz
began 2004 as a starter for the Birmingham Barons of the Class
AA Southern League. He adapted quickly, earning a win in each of
his first four starts to finish tied for the minor-league lead
with four wins through the end of April.
Before being recalled to Chicago on June 15, Munoz was tied for
the league lead with seven wins, had produced a 2.05 ERA and had
struck out 68 batters - fifth best in the circuit. After a spot
start for the White Sox, Munoz joined the Charlotte Knights of
the Class AAA International League.
Juan Perez (Red Sox) Pitcher
After finishing fourth in the Florida State League with 18 saves
in 2003, the 23-year-old southpaw has continued to be one of the
most effective relievers in the Red Sox organization. Perez, who
was originally believed to be three years younger, did not allow
a run over his first seven appearances with the Portland Sea Dogs
of the Class AA Eastern League this season.
In 10 relief appearances (May 19-June 18), the Dominican
Republic native went 1-0 with three saves, allowing one earned
run and fanning 15 batters in 16 1/3 innings. A converted
starter, Perez has finished over 40 combined games since moving
to the bullpen in 2003, notching 21 saves over that span.
Andres Blanco (Royals) Shortstop
Despite just turning 20-years-old, Blanco has emerged as one of
the best shortstops in the National Association and arguably the
best defensive players in the Royals system.
The native of Venezuela, who earned all-star honors in the
Carolina League in 2003, hit safely in seven consecutive games
with the Wichita Wranglers of the Class AA Texas League in April
before making his major-league debut while filling in for
injured shortstop Angel Berroa in Kansas City. The switch-hitter
hit .259 (7-for-27) in nine games with the Royals. Blanco, who has yet to hit a home run in nearly 1
,000 career at-bats, compensates for a lack of power with speed on the bases
and a quick stroke that produces consistent contact.
Jesus Cota (Diamondbacks) Outfield
A 14th-round pick of Arizona in 2000, Cota earned MVP honors in
the rookie-level Pioneer League in 2001 and drove in a
league-best 101 runs in the Class A California League the
following season. The native of Mexico recorded 90 extra-base hits over his first
two pro seasons but was plagued by a hip flexor in 2003,
managing just 20 extra-base hits in 98 games for Class AA El
Paso. After missing most of April, the 6-3, 220-pound outfielder hit
.403 (25-62) and knocked in 22 runs in 16 games, including a
two-homer effort on May 5, in the California League this year.
In mid-May, Cota made a return to the Texas League and hit .317
with six homers and 20 RBI in June.
Edwin Encarnacion (Reds) Third Base
Originally a ninth-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2000,
Encarnacion was traded to the Cincinnati Reds with Ruben Mateo
for righthander Rob Bell in 2001. A native of the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion emerged as a
Class A Midwest League All Star in 2002, ranking fourth in the
circuit with 17 homers and fifth with 237 stolen bases. He also
produced a .282 average, 73 RBI and 25 steals that season. Last year, the 6-1, 195-pound Encarnacion
split time between the Class A Carolina League and the Class AA Southern League and
finished sixth in the Reds system with a .294 average. Encarnacion has spent this season at Class AA
and was hitting .291 through July 6.
Jorge Cortes (Pirates) Outfield
A native of Columbia, Cortes was the South Atlantic League's MVP
last year, hitting .325 with eight homers and 66 RBI. He also
played in 37 games in the Carolina League, hitting .264. Cortes was signed as a non-drafted free
agent in 1997 at the age of 17. The now 23-year-old Cortes has spent 2004 in the Carolina
League and hit .333 with 14 extra-base hits during June. The lefthanded-hitting Cortes displays
excellent discipline at the plate. He led the South Atlantic League with a .427 on-base
percentage last year.
Willy Tavares (Astros) Outfield
A 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, Tavares is a
solid contact hitter with excellent speed, swiping 202 bases in
413 games entering this season. The 6-0, 160-pound centerfielder earned all-star honors in the
South Atlantic League in 2002 and the Class A Carolina League in
2003 as a member of the Cleveland Indians organization before
being selected by Houston in the 2003 major league Rule 5 draft. Tavares did not make the Astros out
of spring training, but Houston retained his rights by trading pitcher Jeriome Robertson
to the Indians. He began the season with Round Rock of the Class
AA Texas League and hit safely in 29 of his first 32 games. Tavares, who set a career high with 57
stolen bases in 2003, tied for second in the National Association with 18 steals this
past May. Tavares, who is arguably the best outfield prospect in the
Astros' system, also utilizes his speed on defense and earned
accolades as the best defensive outfielder in the Carolina
League last season. He possesses a strong, accurate arm,
averaging 11 outfield assists over the last three seasons.
Robinzon Diaz (Blue Jays) Catcher
A native of the Dominican Republic, Diaz entered the 2004 season
with a .317 average in 652 professional at-bats. He drove in 45
runs in 65 games in the Dominican Summer League in 2001 and
added 44 RBI while hitting .374 in 48 games in the short-season
Appalachian League last year. The 20-year-old Diaz has spent 2004 in the South Atlantic League
and was hitting .252 with 27 RBI through July 6.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.